Weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [189] - Discovery [72]: Maxwell's Black Weaver

2016-01-27 (695)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Maxwell's Black Weaver Ploceus albinucha

Maxwell's Black Weaver
Maxwell's Black Weaver, albinucha
figure from Bannerman (1949)
Maxwell's Black Weaver
Maxwell's Black Weaver, maxwelli
figure from Bannerman (1949)
Maxwell's Black Weaver map
Maxwell's Black Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Maxwell's Black Weaver was formally described by Jose Vicente Barbosa du Bocage, a Portuguese zoologist and politician. He was curator of the Lisbon Museum.

Richard Bowdler Sharpe, an English zoologist, obtained the Maxwell's Black Weaver specimen from Henry Whitely, a British dealer in bird skins living at 28 Wellington Street, Woolwich. His son, also Henry Whitely, travelled in Japan and South America to collect bird specimens. It is not known from whom Whitely (senior) obtained the Maxwell's Black Weaver specimen. Dowsett-Lemaire & Dowsett (2014) suggested that the specimen was from Ghana.

Sharpe sent a collection of birds (mostly from Quanza, Angola) to Bocage who was interested in Angolan specimens. The Maxwell's Black Weaver type was included in the collection (perhaps accidentally), but its label clearly stated "West Africa". Because of it being with the Angolan birds, many authors incorrectly gave the type locality for Maxwell's Black Weaver as Quanza in Angola but it should always have been listed as West Africa.

Unfortunately the type no longer exists, due to a fire in the Lisbon Museum in 1978.

The first illustrations of the Maxwell's Black Weaver were published in Bannerman (1949), the first in colour and of the nominate subspecies, and the second in black and white of another subspecies. Bartlett (1888) wrote a text on Maxwell's Black Weaver and referred to a plate for this species, but the plate seems to be missing from the book.

Scientific citation

Sycobius albinucha Bocage 1876 Jorn. Sci. Math. Phys. Nat. Lisboa, 5, p.247 West Africa.

Meaning of names

albinucha, Latin: albus, white; Med. Latin nucha, the nape (Arabic nukha, spinal marrow).

First English name

The White-naped Weaver (Bartlett 1888).

Alternate names

Black Weaver, Fernando Po Black Weaver, Maxwell's Weaver, White-naped Black Weaver, White-naped Weaver.


via Henry Whitely.

Date collected

Before 1876.

Locality collected

West Africa, possibly Ghana.

Type specimens

The type specimen was in the Museum of Lisbon, before a fire destroyed the museum.